Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
Symbols and Symbology
See also the Symbology Skill
[Please note – these rules have been amended in line with findings from the party’s symbologists (specifically that the old Potency-Flexibility axes weren’t working too well and sometimes were counterintuitive). There is now a single ‘rank’ given to a symbol, ranging from 1-10. To convert previously acquired symbols to the new system, add +0 to prior ranks 1-2; add +1 to rank 3; add +2 to rank 4; and add +4 to rank 5).
The working of magic requires specific foci, called Symbols. Although these usually take the form of runic inscriptions, tattoos, spellbooks of esoteric diagrams and the like, they can take a great many forms: encoded in knots on a string, for instance, or in the syllabic rhythm of a poem.
Though all symbols share some patterns that trained Symbologists can recognise, creating a symbol is not as simple as copying a rune from a spellbook; the physical pattern is to the symbol as a pile of burning coal is to a steam engine – necessary, but not sufficient. A symbol is also a tangle of magical force and potential and complex interactions with the physical, living, and aethereal realms, and no single part of it can function alone. Physical patterns are needed to anchor the symbol in the material world; aethyric components are required to channel and accumulate magical force; and it takes a living being to unleash and focus the symbol’s potential.
Symbols are subdivided into the Triadic Concepts, and are essential for magic. Though there are rumors of innately magical persons and creatures and places, in practice anyone who wishes to use magic must do so through the intermediary of magically empowered symbols, whether it’s using chains of weaker symbols as spell foci or using more powerful symbols as Keys to reliable magical powers. (In the sense of spending APs on Powers).
Those who are known to, and regularly, use magic are most accurately called Symbologists, but are colloquially called mages, wizards, witches or warlocks – indeed, many academic Symbologists insist on the distinction between “hedge practitioners and shamans” and the “Art” that they practice. However, many academic Symbologists also don’t dare put their ‘Art’ into practice – theory is far safer!
Symbologists (and their inferiors) are not to be called sorcerers – sorcerers are legendary (or perhaps, mythical) figures whose expertise is said to have grown beyond the need for symbols any longer, of whom it is said that their will is strong enough to bend reality itself on a whim. Elderly Elves are said to become sorcerers naturally; though this is disputed (even by Elves) – in fact, even Sorcerers are not known for certain to exist, and many cynics suspect elderly symbologists sometimes just try to overhype themselves.
Most Symbologists specialise in either a Low Concept or a High Concept in an effort to focus and refine their understanding; the saying “a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none” originated in Symbology. As the saying implies, however, specialising is neither a necessity nor sufficient for mastery of symbology.
These rules are PRELIMINARY until further notice, but will be along the following lines regardless.
Symbols are ranked from 1-10 in their Potency.
Rank 1-2: Spell Symbols – these minor symbols are magical, but have no innate force behind them. They are, however, potent vessels through which mana from a mage can be channelled to create spell and ritual effects.
At rank 1 there is a 10% chance that, when inactivated or used in a spell (or item), the Symbol is destroyed.
At rank 2 there is no longer a chance of destruction.
Rank 3-7: Power Symbols – these rarer symbols are innately magical in their own right, and can grant their user particular powers. Such a symbol can be used as a spell symbol or as a key for a magical power (but not both at the same time).
The maximum rank of power that can be granted is (Symbol rank-2).
The maximum number of powers a given symbol can be a Key for at any one time is (Symbol rank/2, -2), minimum 1.
The maximum number of total power ranks (across all powers it is providing) a given symbol can be used for, is equal to its rank.
Rank 8-10: Legacy Symbols – these supremely powerful symbols are very rare, and allow the limited use of a character-specific Legacy. They have the functions of both Spell and Power symbols.
At rank 8, when inactivated, the amount of karma that can be spent on a Legacy at any time is halved from its usual value.
At ranks 8-9, the maximum karma that can be spent on a Legacy at any one time is limited both by the normal cap (as described under “Legacies”), and by the rank of the symbol, whichever is lower.
At rank 10 the Symbol’s rank no longer caps the maximum karma.